65 countries sign arms trade treaty


More than 65 countries on Monday signed a landmark conventional arms trade treaty, but the United States held back from joining the first wave of signatories, and Russia and China are expected to stay out of the accord.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the treaty will “put an end to the free-for-all nature” of weapons dealing and make it harder for warlords, pirates and terrorists to get arms.

The treaty covers tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, as well as the vast trade in small arms.

Countries that ratify the treaty would have to evaluate before making a deal whether it risks breaching an international embargo, violates human rights law, or could be used by terrorists or criminals.

The opening of signatures was described as an “extremely important milestone” by ministers and other representatives of Argentina, Australia, Britain, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan and Kenya, which sponsored the first 2006 U.N. resolution calling for treaty talks.